Mudcat Café message #1278163 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #73622   Message #1278163
Posted By: Jerry Rasmussen
22-Sep-04 - 08:44 AM
Thread Name: Why is a singer one of your favorites?
Subject: Why Is a singer one of your favorites?
This is a companion thread to the "3rd Most Favorite Singer" thread. Every "Best" or "Favorite" thread in here becomes a long, long list of names, with only an occasional comment about why someone, or some song is "Best." For a change, how about chosing One of your favorites (whether your most favorite, or eleventh most favorite) and talk about why you like their music so much. (No need to list your top ten on this thread...)

There are a lot of reasons why a particular singer hits us dead on. It may be the songs they sing, or the songs they write. It may be the timbre of their voice, or the vocal range (sometimes we gravitate toward people with the same vocal range because it is easy to sing along with them.) It may be their stage presence, or who they are as a person (although some of my favorite singers I never heard in person and only know from recordings.)

I could easily chose Mississippi John Hurt (who I had the great honor of hearing perform a couple of times) or Lonnie Donegan (who I only know from recordings.) Talk about different styles! Just to get this thread started, I'll take Mississippi John Hurt, and come back later for Lonnie. If someone else talks about Lonnie, that doesn't mean I might not come back in and talk about him too.

Now, Mississippi John... it would take a long time to talk about why he is one of my very favorite singers. I first heard him on the Anthology Of American Folk Music and was equally attracted to his singing and his guitar playing. In Mississippi's case, I can't really separate the two, as his guitar so perfectly fits his singing. They seem organically joined at the hip. When I had a chance to hear Hurt, there were many things to enjoy about him. He was certainly the most modest, humble man I ever heard get up in front of an audience. With John, every room was a living room. While he didn't have a strong voice, and his singing lacked any dynamic edge to it, he had a wonderful, sly sense of humor, a great smile and a constant twinkle in his eye. All of this came through in his singing. I can't hear him sing the verse:
   "Big fish, little fish, swimming in the water
    Come back here man, and give me my quarter"
without laughing.

Hurt's material also fascinated me because it gave me a glimpse into a life and a culture that was exotic to a white kid growing up in Wisconsin where the only blacks I saw were in National Geographic.

There's a saying in the black community that really sums up everything I feel about Mississippi John's singing. When someone gets up and puts everything they have into a song, people say. "He was really SINGING that song!" It is a wonderful phrase that is used to compliment anything someone does that they are doing well.. "Man, you're WEARING that hat!"

Mississippi John really SANG those songs. Sang the Hell out of them.